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Bigelow
Winter-Spring 2001
pp. 48-82
Copyright 2001 by the Ohio Historical Society. All rights reserved.
This article is presented page by page and footnoted according to the original print version. If a sentence appears to be incomplete, scroll down to continue with the next page.


The 1848 Diary of Daniel Kent

By Cherilyn A. Walley


Tucked away in the special collections of Brigham Young University are fourteen legal-sized photocopies of diary pages, identified only as "Manuscript 1090." These few pages, pages that preserve words written 150 years ago, are valuable not only for the history they provide of the author and his family, but also for their contributions to the study of family and community in mid-nineteenth-century northern Ohio. With the help of a few public records, the diary can be placed in context of location and the people can be brought to life.1

The manuscript is actually a fragment of what must have been a complete diary at some point. The photocopies show that originally other diary pages must have existed, but they became illegible over time and only the few pages written between April and November of 1848 survived intact. The cover sheet of Manuscript 1090 includes some supplementary notes, written in a modern hand, about the manuscript. The donor of the manuscript conjectured that the author of the diary was a woman of the last name Kent. She wrote in 1848 from her home somewhere near Kirtland, Ohio. She was supposedly married to a man named "HP" and had ten children. A typewritten note at the bottom of the page indicates that the manuscript was donated to the archives in 1971. Besides these notes and the photocopied pages of the diary itself, no other clues are given about the diary's origins.2

A careful study of the manuscript in conjunction with the Population Schedule of the 1850 Federal Census of Ohio, however, revealed more accurate information. By searching the census schedules for the area around Kirtland, Ohio for families named "Kent," with first names matching those mentioned in the diary, the author and his family were identified. The author of the diary was Daniel Kent, and he lived in Chester Township, Geauga County, Ohio. The person referred to as


Cherilyn A. Walley is a Ph.D. candidate and instructor in the Agricultural History and Rural Studies program at Iowa State University.

1. Daniel Kent, "Kirtland, Ohio, diary, 1846-1848," photocopy of diary pages, Manuscript 1090, Brigham Young University Special Collections and Manuscripts, Harold B. Lee Library, Provo, Utah. [Hereafter cited as Kent Diary.]
2. Ibid.


The 1848 Diary of Daniel Kent
Page 49

"Mother" in the diary was actually Daniel's wife, Nancy. "HP" was Horatio Phiney, Daniel's son-in-law, married to Daniel's daughter Emily.3 The various young children mentioned in the diary belonged to HP and Emily, not Daniel and Nancy.4

The census provided other information unrecorded in the diary, such as family members' ages and birthplaces. In 1850, Daniel Kent was seventyone years old. He was born in Massachusetts, as was Nancy, who was sixty-four years old in 1850. Living with the Kents in 1850 were Abigail Griffith and her son Evin. According to Daniel's diary, in October of 1848 Abigail, her husband Orrin, and their son Evin had moved to Kirtland, Ohio. Abigail and Evin had either moved in with the Kents in 1849 or 1850, or they might have been visiting on census day and been enumerated as part of the household. The census schedule also revealed that Horatio Phiney was forty-six years old and born in Vermont. His wife Emily, Daniel's daughter, was forty-five and born in New York. Seven of their eight children were born in New York, with the youngest being born in Ohio. Their ages ranged from twenty-six to only seven: Adaline twentysix, Philander twenty-three, Judith twenty, Cordin sixteen, Susan fourteen, Lucius twelve, Nancy eight, and George seven.5

In the early years of the nineteenth century, thousands of Americans pulled up roots and looked for new places to establish themselves. As new lands opened up to settlement, and as eastern populations grew, pioneers headed westward. The settlers tended to migrate along latitudinal lines, heading mostly west and not often veering north or south of their point of origin. Thus, former New Englanders populated much of the Upper Midwest. Daniel Kent moved directly west from Massachusetts to New York around 1800 (judging from the age of his daughter Emily). After living in New York for several decades, the Kents and the Phineys followed the shores of Lake Erie to Lake County, Ohio, and then down to Geauga County, maintaining as direct a westward course as possible. The Kents and Phineys traveled in good company, as most settlers in the northwestern counties of Ohio had also immigrated from the Northeast. Of the 1,099 residents of Chester Township in 1850, 529 were born in Ohio (48.1 percent), including children. Of the 570 people not born in

3. That this paper might better correspond with the diary entries, first names will be used to refer to family members. HP is how Daniel Kent referred to Horatio Phiney, so that designation will be used throughout. Since more than one Kent appears in the diary, Daniel's first name will also be used. Last names or family relationships will be included when needed for clarity.
4. Kent Diary; 1850 Federal Census of Ohio, Geauga County, Population Schedule.
5. 1850 Federal Census of Ohi


The 1848 Diary of Daniel Kent
Page 50


Ohio in 1849. Henry Howe, Historical Collections of Ohio: Containing a Collection of the Most Interesting Facts, Traditions, Biographical Sketches, Anecdotes, Etc. Relating to its General and Local History: with Discriptions of its Counties, Principal Towns and Villages (Cincinnati, 1849), insert.

Ohio, 140 were born in Massachusetts (24.6 percent of non-Ohio born) and 230 were born in New York (40.4 percent).6

The Kents and Phineys were also representative of the larger population in other ways. Their household compositions ran close to the township norm. The Phiney household, consisting of HP, his wife and their unmarried children, was nuclear in composition. Of the 201 households in Chester Township in 1850, 108 were similarly nuclear (53.7 percent). The Kent household, on the other hand, was an extended household: Daniel and his wife were joined by a married daughter and her

6. R. Douglas Hurt, The Ohio Frontier: Crucible of the Old Northwest, 1720-1830 (Bloomington, 1996), 249-50; Jeremy Atack and Fred Bateman, To Their Own Soil: Agriculture in the Antebellum North (Ames, 1987), 77-78; John C. Hudson, "North American Origins of Middlewestern Frontier Populations," Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 78 (1988), 395-413; 1850 Federal Census of Ohio.


The 1848 Diary of Daniel Kent
Page 51



Table 1. Real Property, Chester Township 1848.

# acres

0-25
26-50
51-75
76-100
101-125
126-150
151-175
176-200
201-225
226-250
251-275
276-300
300+

# owners

40
29
22
31
20
10
11
3
1
2
3
2
2

% owners

22.7
16.5
12.5
17.6
11.4
5.7
6.3
1.7
0.6
1.1
1.7
1.1
1.1

Total acres = 14,666; n = 176

Source: 1848 Tax Duplicate for Real Property in Chester Township, Geauga County, Ohio.


son. In the township, twenty-eight other households (13.9 percent) also reflected a multi-generation family presence. Thus, the Phineys' situation was typical of household composition in Chester Township and the Kents' situation was not atypical. The fact that these related families lived next door to one another was not unusual in the township: seventeen families (8.5 percent) with the same surname (indicating relation) lived next to one another, and other related families with different surnames must also have been neighbors. At seventy-one years old, Daniel was one of the older men in Chester Township, but at forty-six years old HP was very close to the average age of the townships' heads of households-forty-four years old.7

Daniel owned land, but HP did not. From the order of entries in the population schedule, and from comments made in the diary, it would appear that the Phineys lived on Daniel's land, but resided in a separate dwelling. The 1848 tax duplicate for real property indicated that Daniel

7. 1850 Federal Census of Ohio.


The 1848 Diary of Daniel Kent
Page 5
2


Table 2. Personal Property, Chester Township 1848.

$ value

0-50
51-100
101-150
151-200
201-250
251-300
301-350
351-400
401-500
501-600
601-700
701-800

% owners

13
5
7
8
2
5
6
10
8
10
15
13

# owners

7.4
2.8
4.0
4.5
1.1
2.8
3.4
5.7
4.5
5.7
8.5
7.4

$ value

801-900
901-1000
1001-1100
1101-1200
1201-1300
1301-1400
1401-1500
1501-1600
1601-1700
1701-1800
1801-1900
1900+

# owners

11
14
5
4
7
6
3
3
4
3
3
11

% owners

6.3
8.0
2.8
2.3
4.0
3.4
1.7
1.7
2.3
1.7
1.7
6.3

Total value = $143,295; Total # owners = 176

Source: 1848 Tax Duplicate for Personal Property in Chester Township, Geauga County, Ohio.


Kent owned 75.5 acres of land worth $797. The average holding in Chester Township was 83 acres, so Daniel seemed to be neither relatively wealthy nor poor. Charting the distribution of holding sizes among landholders confirms Daniel's middling status: 39 percent of the 177 landowners owned between 0 and 50 acres, 30 percent owned between 51 and 100 acres, and the remaining 31 percent of the landholders owned 101 acres or more.8

The Kents and Phineys were not wealthy, but neither were they paupers. The 1848 tax duplicate for personal property (not land) showed that for the 167 people assessed the average value reported was $219. HP's property was assessed at $146, and Daniel's was valued at only $88. The distribution of wealth put Daniel and HP near the lower end of the township's spectrum of personal wealth; fifty of the reportees (30 percent) had property valued between $51 and $150. Only twenty-three people (14 percent) reported owning property worth $50 or less. Sixty people (36

8. 1848 Tax Duplicate for Real Property in Chester Township, Geauga County, Ohio.


The 1848 Diary of Daniel Kent
Page 53

percent) owned property valued between $151 and $300, while only thirtyfive people (21 percent) reported property assessed at $301 or more. Several reasons could explain why HP had more personal property wealth than did Daniel. HP had a larger family, and therefore would have been assessed for all the possessions needed to keep the household running. HP also seemed to do most of the farmwork for himself and for Daniel, so he no doubt had tools that would have been assessed.9

Daniel's diary not only survives as a record of his and his family's activities in 1848, but also as a resource for the community. Through Daniel's eyes the modern scholar glimpses life in mid-nineteenth-century Chester Township. Forgotten names are brought to life through the records Daniel left of his interactions with neighbors and family. Though the Kents and Phineys represent only two families, those families are typical enough that many of their experiences can be taken as common to the larger community.

The community in which the Kents and Phineys lived could be defined several ways. Geographically, their neighborhood consisted of the neighboring farms, and in a more inclusive sense the entire township. The two families had also lived in the area long enough to form social and business associations with people outside the immediate vicinity. Daniel made reference to family and acquaintances in Kirtland, about seven miles north of Chester Cross Roads. In addition to neighbors and friends, the Kents had a fairly extensive kinship network. By 1848 most of their children had married and formed families of their own. Their new family connections broadened the Kents' and Phineys' own circle of relationships. In the broadest sense, the families' community would have also included friends and relations left behind in the Northeast. Daniel had contact with brothers back in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and both the Kents and Phineys must have had extensive contacts in New York.

The majority of the diary's entries refer to activities centered in Daniel's geographic neighborhood. In his study of nineteenth-century rural Maine, Thomas C. Hubka defines the farm neighborhood as "a network of farm families who operated independent farmsteads in a loosely drawn geographic district and who assisted each other through a wide variety of work and social activities." Under this definition, the Kents' and Phineys' neighborhood consisted of the surrounding farms and the farmers with whom they consistently associated. Daniel's land was located near Chester Cross Roads, the township center, so he would have also associated with "townsfolk" fairly often. Some of Daniel's nearest farm neighbors, who appear in the diary fairly often, were the Abbotts, the

9. 1848 Tax Duplicate for Personal Property in Chester Township, Geauga County, Ohio.


The 1848 Diary of Daniel Kent
Page 54


Chester Township, 1874. Black block indicates Daniel Kent's land in 1848. Atlas of Lake and Geauga Counties, Ohio, From Actual Surveys by and under the direction of D. J. Lake, C.E. (Philadelphia, 1874), 69.

Scotts, the Tiffanys, the Barbers, the S. B. Philbricks, and the C. Tanners. To a large extent, geography determined with whom Daniel and his family would interact on a regular basis.10

The township itself blended seamlessly with its neighboring townships and counties. Located in the northwest corner of Geauga County, Chester Township lies near the center of the area known as the Western Reserve. Originally owned by Connecticut and reserved to support the state's schools, the Western Reserve was sold to The Connecticut Land Company in 1795. The speculators opened the lands to settlement in July 1796, but settlement was slow for the first thirty years. Geauga County was formed from Trumbull County in 1805, and Lake County was split off from Geauga

10. Thomas C. Hubka, "Farm Family Mutuality: The Mid-Nineteenth-Century Maine Farm Neighborhood," The Farm: The Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife, Annual Proceedings (1986), 14-15; Kent Diary; 1848 Tax Duplicate, Real Property; 1850 Federal Census of Ohio.


The 1848 Diary of Daniel Kent
Page 55


Map of Lake Geauga Counties, Ohio, 1874. Atlas of Lake and Geauga Counties, Ohio, From Actual Surveys by and under the direction of D. J. Lake, C. E. (Philadelphia, 1874), n.p.

County in 1840. By 1850 Geauga County boasted a population of 17,827, the most dramatic period of growth coming in the 1830s when the population doubled. Chester Township was neither the most populated township in Geauga County, nor the most isolated. Chester did have the distinction of being home to the Geauga Seminary, a college chartered in 1841 by the Western Reserve Free-Will Baptist Academical Society. HP


The 1848 Diary of Daniel Kent
Page 56

attended the Seminary part time. On the whole, however, Chester Township could be considered typical of the region.11

The primary economic activity in Chester Township, as in the whole of Geauga County, was farming. In 1850, dairying was an important activity. In that year, Geauga County produced 424,547 pounds of butter and 2,273,723 pounds of cheese. Agricultural pursuits were not restricted to butter and cheese, however. In 1850, the county also raised 37,096 bushels of wheat. Corn came in at 258,436 bushels, and potatoes at 85,464 bushels. Local farmers also raised cattle, hogs, and sheep.12

While Daniel Kent was no doubt a regular diarist, only a fragment of his writing has survived. But the few months between April and November of 1848 serve as a sort of snapshot of life for the Kents and Phineys. Daniel's diary-keeping style was straightforward. He unfailingly recorded the state of the weather and jotted down various family members' activities for the day. The August 15, 1848, entry is typical of the diary's content: "tuesday plesant and very warm I at home HP at the Oats Mother Baking I Churnd this Morning Colloring Cloth."13 All entries were made in this same matter-of-fact way, though the content varied according to season and family members' activities.14

The Kents and the Phineys lived in separate, but neighboring, homes. Since HP's wife, Emily, was the Kents' daughter, the households were closely related. Because the two households were located so near to one another, this intimacy increased as the households interacted on a daily basis. The Kents were thus able to maintain the privacy and independence of their own home, but enjoyed the benefits of having their children and grandchildren in daily contact. The Phineys maintained their privacy while benefitting from the Kents' presence. The distinctions between neighborly and family relationships blurred as the households interacted on several levels at once.

HP and Daniel related on an economic level, as well as a personal level. Daniel owned the land that HP worked. The arrangement benefitted

11. Hurt, Ohio Frontier, 164-70; Henry Howe, Historical Collections of Ohio; Containing a Collection of the Most Interesting Facts, Traditions, Biographical sketches, Anecdotes, Etc. Relating to its General and Local History: With Descriptions of its Counties, Principal Towns and Villages (Cincinnati, 1849), 187; Pioneer and General History of Geauga County, With Sketches of Some of the Pioneers and Prominent Men (np.: Historical Society of Geauga County, 1880), 36; History of Geauga and Lake Counties, Ohio, With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of its Pioneers and most Prominent Men (Philadelphia, 1878), 35-36; Kent Diary.
12. Pioneer and General History of Geauga County, With Sketches of Some of the Pioneers and Prominent Men (np.: Historical Society of Geauga County, 1880), 30-36.
13. Original spelling, capitalization, and punctuation have been retained.
14. Kent Diary.


The 1848 Diary of Daniel Kent
Page 57

Daniel in that he maintained control of his assets and could provide for himself and his wife into their old age. However, Daniel could not work the land and needed somebody to manage that aspect of the operation. Instead of having to rent the land out or hire farmhands, Daniel arranged with his son-in-law HP to farm the land. HP settled his family on his father-in-law's land in exchange for HP's farm work, thus providing his wife and children with food and shelter. HP not only cared for Daniel's land and livestock, but was also allowed to raise crops and livestock for himself. In time, HP no doubt expected to inherit Daniel's land (or purchase it inexpensively), which would be compensation on top of the yearly benefits HP received.

With HP working the farm, Daniel had more time to help out with tasks traditionally assigned to the women of a household. Daniel's entry on August 15–"1 Churnd this Morning"–is of interest because it shows him crossing the gender line of appropriate work. In fact, Daniel regularly took care of the churning, as his entries on May 8, May 28, and June 5 attest. Men and women did often share the tasks of dairy production, but such situations usually occurred in large dairying operations. The Kents were undoubtedly churning for home consumption, placing the task back in the female sphere of responsibility, which makes Daniel's work noteworthy. Daniel also dyed cloth on August 15 and 21, signaling his participation in the overwhelmingly female business of home textile production. Daniel did not, however, help Nancy and Adaline quilt on August 30 or intrude when Nancy set to "spining Wool for her self to make Stockings" on September 8. Gardening, another traditional domain of the farm wife, took up a significant amount of Daniel's attention. On May 17 he noted "I planted Cowcumbers and Mushmilions and Watermilions and Bean in the gardin." The diary entries make it clear that Daniel took a proprietary interest in the garden: "I Bushed my peas" (May 26), "I howd in the gardin set out my turnups plants" (June 19), "I geathered my Beans" (September 9) emphasis added]. Daniel's sharing of what would have traditionally been Nancy's responsibilities was no doubt in part due to Nancy's ill health. Daniel frequently noted that Nancy was not feeling well or was even bedridden. Daniel's own health was beginning to fail him, but the couple seemed to have worked out a system where they could keep the household going through work role flexibility and cooperation.15

15. Nancy Grey Osterud, Bonds of Community: The Lives of Farm Women in Nineteenth Century New York (Ithaca, N.Y., 1991), 147, 150-58; John Mack Faragher, "History From the Inside-Out: Writing the History of Women in Rural America," American Quarterly, 33 (Winter, 1981), 546-48, 555; John Mack Faragher, Women and Men on the Overland Trail (New Haven, 1979), 47-57.


The 1848 Diary of Daniel Kent
Page 58

Besides someday officially taking over the farm, the Phineys additionally benefitted from the resources of the Kent household. Daniel often noted that HP borrowed Daniel's wagon for an errand or a trip, and in other instances Daniel himself carried members of the Phiney household on errands. On May 4, for example, Daniel wrote "HP gon to the Center with my Wagon with Emily in the afternoon." Again, on June 22, "HP and Emily gon to Unkle Clintons with my wagon." And then on July 23, Daniel noted "My hors and Wagon went to Carrey Judath to her work at A Philbricks." The Phiney children even took advantage of Daniel's wagon on September 27: "Darwin and Judah and Susan gone to Moses [their uncle] with my Mare and wagon." Yet Daniel always referred to the wagon as his and did not consider it common property. In time HP did have a wagon built for his own family; Daniel's September 4 entry read "HP giting his Wagon Maid."16

Another illustration of the interaction between the two households was the time Phineys spent at the Kents. HP himself spent considerable time interacting with the Kents. He must have somehow checked in with Daniel every day and indicated where he would be working, otherwise Daniel would not have been able to keep a daily record of HP's activities. That Daniel bothered to note HP's activities probably reflected not only familial interest, but also the work relationship they had. When Daniel wrote on October 1, "HP gone to Meeting," Daniel was recording the religious activities of his family. When Daniel noted on September 28, "HP gone to Clevland with Oats," Daniel was keeping track of his farm manager.17

Daniel also kept track of other Phiney family members' activities. He was evidently in a position to know everybody's comings and goings. The family may not have felt it necessary to actually report their activities to Daniel as patriarch of the family, but Daniel's interactions with the Phiney family must have been regular enough to enable him to observe and keep track of everyone. His information was probably born more of familiarity and not formal overseeing. Thus, Daniel was in a position on June 30 to note "Emily Clening the Butrey to Day," and on August 14 "Emily Washing."18

The younger Phiney children also frequently spent time at the Kent home. On April 18, Daniel noted "Adaline hear with her Children." They were there again on April 24: "Adaline hear with her Children all Day," and on the April 28: "Adaline hear with her Children all Night." Whether

16. Kent Diary.
17. Kent Diary.
18. Kent Diary.


The 1848 Diary of Daniel Kent
Page 59

to get the children out of the Phiney house, or because Adaline was needed at the Kents' and was also in charge of watching the little ones, the children spent many hours at the Kent home. Daniel usually just recorded their presence, but on one occasion his grandchildren must have done something to deserve further comment. On September 28, Daniel wrote "I am unwell the Children Crase me all mostt 0 dear." Daniel was clearly tired of the children's presence that day.19

Because of the two families' proximity, Daniel was in a good position to watch and take note of the courtship of one of his granddaughters. Daniel regularly recorded the times when James Fisk called on Daniel's granddaughter Judith. First, on May 7 Daniel noted "J Fisk hear to see Judah." A few weeks later, on May 28, Daniel again wrote "James Fisk hear to see Judah." A month later, on June 25, Fisk courted in earnest: "James Fisk hear all Day." Daniel makes no further reference to the courtship, perhaps because the relationship had become established and in Daniel's mind no longer unusual enough to note. According to county records, the courtship did finally culminate in marriage on December 17, 1849.20

Though Daniel did not record the details of Judith's courtship, the basic progression of the courtship was no doubt similar to others' of the time. Fisk probably met Judith at a local community gathering where people of all ages mixed and freely socialized. Once they became interested in one another, Fisk was free to visit Judith at her home. Daniel's diary indicates that the visits always took place on a Sunday, the usual day set aside for leisure and visiting. When Fisk remained visiting the entire day on June 25, his intentions and Judith's reciprocal reactions were more than clear. The time Fisk and Judith spent together would have been fairly unstructured, and the couple could interact privately when they so desired.21

That Judith's courtship lasted a year and a half before marriage does not seem unreasonable for the time. Fisk would have had to work out his own financial independence and establish himself in a situation where he could support a family. Judith would have used the time to begin gathering goods for her future home, a process that could be very time consuming. Even after the marriage, the couple did not always immediately move to their own place. The 1850 Census counted Judith as still living in the Phiney household in September. Fisk could have been working elsewhere

19. Kent Diary.
20. Kent Diary; Margaret 0. Ford, Early Marriages in Geauga County (Burton, Ohio: Privately printed, n.d.), 185.
21. Kent Diary; Osterud, Bonds of Community, 89-96.


The 1848 Diary of Daniel Kent
Page 60

or simply did not yet have a house built for his bride.22

As Daniel watched another family connection form, he also often interacted with other extended family members. Through visiting and correspondence, the Kents managed to keep in fairly close contact with other of their children than Emily and her family. On May 20, Daniel wrote "Mother and I went to Kirtland to see the folks." The July 11 entry reveals that the Kents visited women who might have been their daughters, granddaughters, cousins, or nieces: "I went to Kirtland and Caned Mother to mr Dicksons I went to Heaths and see Loisa and Candis." The Kents repeated the visit on August 3: "I and Mother went to Kirtland to see Loisa Heath."23

The Kents also had a close relationship with their daughter Nancy Chase. Nancy was married to George Chase, and evidently Moses Chase was related to George, thereby extending Daniel's kinship network even wider. On May 29 George and Nancy visited the Kents, then on May 31 the Kents returned with them to Ashtabula: "we went to Astabuly with George Chase got there at 2 oclock found them well and in good spirits" This was the visit during which Daniel attended Moses Chases's barn moving. On June 2, Daniel wrote: "Friday plesant Moses Moved his Barn we staed all Day."24

On August 6, Mrs. Kent wrote "a letter to Nancy Chase our Daughter." Soon after, on August 8, Daniel drove to Kirtland and upon returning home he "found Nancy Chase at our house she from Ashtabula." Nancy stayed for several days, and on August 11 Nancy and her sister Emily drove to Kirtland, no doubt to visit other relatives. Ashtabula is located in Ashtabula County, northeast of Geauga County. The distance from Ashtabula to Chester Township is approximately forty-five miles, so once in the area it made sense that Nancy would see as many relatives as possible. In September (7-9), HP and Emily made a similar visit to Moses Chase, who also lived in Ashtabula: "HP gone to Moses Chase on a Visit with Emily."25

September found Daniel's daughter, Abigail, and her husband, Orrin Griffith, in the midst of relocating. Either coming from or routing through Cleveland, Abigail and Orrin arrived at the Kents' on September 18: "Orrin and Abagail Come hear I lent Orrin $3.50 in Cash to pay the man that Brought him from Cleviand." Abigail and Orrin intended to settle in Kirtland and on September 22, Daniel accompanied Orrin on a trip to find

22. 1850 Federal Census of Ohio; Osterud, Bonds of Community, 95-96.
23. Kent Diary. 24. Kent Diary. 25. Kent Diary.


The 1848 Diary of Daniel Kent
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a place to live: "I went to Kirtland with Orrin G." Orrin returned to Kirtland on September 25 and seemingly found a suitable situation, for on October 1, Daniel noted "Orrin hear to Day Expect he will Move to Morrow to [illegible]." Sure enough, on October 2 Daniel wrote "I went to Kirtland with Orrin he let the Boston house to live in at presant." October 3 was moving day: "HP gone to Kirtland with Orrin and Abagail to Day." Perhaps missing his daughter and son-in-law's company, that same night Daniel wrote "the house very still jest now." On October 6, Daniel took a final load of possessions up to Orrin and Abigail's new home: "I went to Kirtland to see Abagail and Carry her some things." Enjoying their daughter's new proximity, the Kents visited her again on October 13: "I went to Kirtland with Mother to see Abagail I left my Watch with Orrin Griffith in Kirtland." They made another visit two weeks later, on October 26.26

The extensive pattern of correspondence and visiting that the Kents conducted with their three daughters fit well with observed patterns of nineteenth-century midwestern settlement. John Mack Faragher noted that after 1835 rural families often had more female relatives in geographic proximity than male relatives. Daughters were more likely to marry and settle near their parents than were sons. Thus, mothers, daughters, and sisters retained an important source of support. In the Kents' case, their daughter Emily lived near enough for the two families to develop a close relationship of mutual support. Nancy and Abigail lived further away from their parents, but still close enough to enable the Kents to lend support and enjoy frequent contact with their daughters. And though Daniel did not make specific note of such, surely the three sisters maintained contact between themselves.27

The Kents were further removed from other kin, however. On August 29, Daniel wrote "I went to the Center and got a letter from Asa Kent my Brother he spake of Br. Jacob Death the first I had heard of it he had ben Dead one year and 27 Days he Died Aug. 2 Day 1847 in Brook[field]." Daniel responded to Asa's letter on September 3: "I am going to write a letter to Br Asa Kent at New Bedford in Massachusetts." Having moved so far away from his birthplace, Daniel seemingly fell out of regular correspondence with his Massachusetts-based family.28

Besides providing insight into family relationships, Daniel Kent's diary also sheds light on broader neighborhood and community patterns of socializing and working together. While only a few entries specifically

26. Kent Diary.
27. Faragher, "History from the Inside-Out," 552-53.
28. Kent Diary.


The 1848 Diary of Daniel Kent
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mentioned women working away from home, Daniel records numerous instances of women spending time at each other's homes. Sometimes Daniel specifically characterizes the time together as visits, but other times he just notes the occurrence. A great number of these occasions most likely involved shared work. Nancy Osterud states in her book Bonds of Community that women in nineteenth-century New York often helped one another with household tasks. Housework could be less vexing if amiable companions helped one another. Sewing was an especially common chore on which women collaborated; mending was a task best accomplished in pleasant company, and more involved projects like making a dress would perhaps require an extra pair of hands or consultation with a woman more skilled at the task.29

The Kent and Phiney women spent a considerable amount of time visiting (including work sharing) or receiving visits from other women. Daniel's daughter, Emily Phiney, consistently spent a good deal of time over at the Scotts' farm. The afternoon of April 25, Mrs. Norton and Mrs. Abbot visited the Kents. On June 15, Emily and her mother, Nancy, went to the Millers for a visit. Nancy also regularly exchanged visits with Mrs. Chester Tanner: on May 17 "Mrs. Tanner hear;" on May 23 "Mother went to C Tanners." Busy farm women would have been better able to justify such visits if work was exchanged, but social visits were also encouraged by the culture.30

Visits did much to counter the isolation a rural woman often experienced. While rural men often had opportunity for social contactby running errands for the farm, working with other men at large projects, or even giving themselves a day off during a slack season-rural women were usually tied to home by the unrelenting responsibilities of childrearing and unending domestic chores. Nancy Kent was past her days of child-rearing so could go visiting more often than she perhaps did when she was younger. Emily was somewhat liberated by being able to assign her eldest daughter Adaline to the task of watching the youngest children. Circumstances were such that Nancy and Emily did not suffer from the isolation complained of by so many other rural women.31

The women were not the only people engaged in visiting. Daniel himself found time to visit friends and family. July 10 was a busy day for both Daniel and Nancy: "I went to Kirtland and Caned Mother to mr Dicksons I went to Heaths and See Loisa and Candis." From May 31 through June 4 the Kents spent time in Ashtabula with their daughter,

29. Kent Diary; Osterud, Bonds of Community, 187-201.
30. Kent Diary.
31. Faragher, "History from the Inside-Out," 548.


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Nancy, and her family. In August Nancy Chase returned the visit.32

Besides work and socializing, another reason for visiting was to help take care of the sick. Thomas C. Hubka noted that New England neighbors often pulled together in times of illness or death. When a man was laid up with injury or ailment, his neighbors could be expected to pitch in and accomplish the most necessary tasks to keep his farm running. If the entire family was stricken with illness, the neighborhood invariably pulled together and lent not only physical assistance, but also brought in provisions to sustain the family.33

Nancy Grey Osterud found in her study that relatives were at least as important as neighbors in times of illness or incapacitation, including childbirth. Families first turned to relatives in times of need, relying on kin to provide the necessary assistance and sustenance. Whether nursing the patient, cleaning the house, caring for children, or bringing much needed provisions, nearby female relatives could be counted on to help each other through hard times. Indeed this mutual aid arrangement, where such assistance was regularly reciprocated within the family network, helped cement the kinship bonds themselves.34

Daniel's diary alludes to these neighborhood and kinship networks of mutual aid. On April 24, Daniel noted "Mother unwell I not well Adaline hear with her Children all Day." He follows up the next day with "I at home mrs. Norton and mrs Aabbot hear on a Visit this afternoon." The April 24 entry indicates that Daniel and his wife were both ill and in need of assistance. So their granddaughter Adaline brought her charges over and spent the day helping the Kents. It seems only natural that the eldest granddaughter would be expected to provide assistance, since she was certainly mature and capable of caregiving and had no family of her own to care for. Her mother, Daniel's daughter Emily, no doubt looked in on the Kents, but she had her own household to manage and Adaline could better be spared for the day. The next day Mrs. Norton and Mrs. Abbot visited. They were no doubt checking up on Mrs. Kent, ready to offer neighborly assistance if needed.35

Adaline and "her children" spent a good deal of time at her grandparents' house. The children were most likely her youngest brother and sister, as the census indicates that Adaline was single up through 1850. Part of her responsibility at home, then, was to care for the youngest children. The Phiney household was crowded with eight children of

32. Kent Diary.
33. Hubka, "Farm Family Mutuality," 18.
34. Osterud, Bonds of Community, 193-94.
35. Kent Diary.


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varying ages, so perhaps to help alleviate the chaos at home for her mother, Adaline took the children to the Kents. The arrangement was mutually beneficial because while Adaline stayed with the Kents she would have helped her grandmother with household tasks. The children would have also had the opportunity to spend time with their grandparents, and the grandparents would have enjoyed the youngsters' company (at least most of the time). Work sharing, visiting, and kinship ties were all represented in the arrangement.36

With an understanding of the mutual aid network evident within the family and the neighborhood, a series of entries Daniel made at the end of June into early July is less alarming. On June 25, Daniel noted "I at home very unwell with a hard coff Mother unwell with a coff." June 26 brought no relief: "I am very unwell... Mother unwell [illegible]." Over the next week, neither improved, and on July 3 Mrs. Kent was bedridden. Sunday, July 9, found both the Kents still unwell and Daniel himself discouraged: "HP gon to Meeting with all his family I at home Mothr on the Bed we are unwell Both of us and have ben for long." The Phineys appeared to go about their usual tasks: "HP at the Corn," "Emily Clening the Butrey to Day." Though Daniel does not mention the Phineys or neighbors helping out while he and his wife were ill, the aid can be assumed. Daniel probably expected such aid from his family and neighbors and therefore did not think to note the occurrence. In only one entry during this illness did Daniel seem to record the aid. On June 28, the Kents were both unwell, but "HP and all his family gon to the Exibichion in the rain," leaving the Kents alone. The next sentence in the entry, however, indicates that principle of neighborly aid: "mrs Tanner hear had my wagon to take Judah to her work." Judith needed to get to work somehow, but Daniel was too ill to drive her, so their neighbor Mrs. Tanner obliged. Daniel also gave neighborly aid, as he recorded on August 2: "I went with mother to W Tiffiney to see there sick Child."37

As a keeper of a farm diary, Daniel devoted much of his writing to agricultural topics. Most of the actual farm work was done by Daniel's son-in-law, HP, who was either working for himself, for Daniel, or for other people in the area. HP seemed to specifically have a regular work relationship with S. B. Philbrick, as quite a few of Daniel's entries mention HP working over at Philbrick's farm. For example, just on April 24, 26, 28, and 29, HP worked at S. B. Philbrick's farm plowing and sowing oats. It is possible that HP hired out to Philbrick, or that HP rented some of

36. Kent Diary; 1850 Federal Census of Ohio. 37. Kent Diary.


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Philbrick's land. The October 9 entry indicates a sort of rental or sharecropping situation: "HP at S Philbricks husking Corn for him self Some he planted on shairs."38

Being so regular, HP's arrangement with Philbrick was of a somewhat formal nature, but HP also worked for other men on a more casual basis. On June 15, 20, and 21, Daniel noted that HP was drawing lumber for Joshua Welman. July 31 found HP mowing hay for Chester Tanner, and in mid-August HP spent two days working at the Jones's place. HP's work for Chester Tanner could very well have been in way of repayment for Tanner's own work on Daniel's barn earlier in the month. On July 1, Daniel noted "Chester Tanner Begun to Shingle the Barn." HP's work represented not only practices of hiring out for odd jobs, but possibly also illustrated a system of barter using work skills and labor as a means of exchange.39

Work and leisure mixed when earlier in the Spring the community gathered together for a barn raising on Aretus Scott's farm: "Satady rain in the Morning Old Mrs Brass Died this Morn HP to work at S. B. Philbrick in the AM and gon to rasing to Retus scoots in the PM I at home Emily at Scoots" (April 29). Barn raisings are the classic example of community cooperation. Since nobody could build a barn alone, and since at some point everybody had to build a barn, the most effective way to get the job done was for neighbors to cooperate and help one another. With enough men, the frame could be erected in an afternoon. While the men worked on the barn, the women socialized and prepared food for the celebration to follow. Daniel's comment, "Emily at Scoots," no doubt refers to this social custom. Daniel's entries of June 1 and 2 also refer to a similar community effort in Ashtabula, where the Kents were visiting their daughter; Daniel noted "Moses fixing to Move his Barn"and "Moses Moved his Barn." Moses Chase would have required his neighbors' help to move such a large structure as a barn, just as he most likely needed their help to build the barn in the first place. Back home in Chester Township on July 12, Daniel noted "I went to see the Hudson Barn Moved." He did not indicate his own participation, instead referring to his part as spectator. He may have helped with some of the less strenuous tasks, or he may have just watched. The social nature of the occasion would have supported either choice.40

The extant portion of Daniel Kent's diary covers the majority of the

38. Kent Diary.
39. Kent Diary; The full name for Joshua Welman was found in the 1850 Federal Census of Ohio.
40. Kent Diary; Hubka, "Farm Family Mutuality," 19.


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1848 agricultural season in Chester Township. Daniel's April 20 entry indicates that winter was hanging on: "Snow to be seene in places frose last Night very hard for the time of year very Drye." And the next day Daniel wrote "friday plesant and warm yet snow to be seene the North side of the Bildings." On April 21, however, Daniel's pregnant ewes decided spring had arrived: "ten Lambs to Day in all." And on the 26, HP plowed for S. B. Philbrick.41

As spring settled in, planting began. On April 28 Daniel wrote that HP was at S. B. Philbrick's "sowing oats." May 3 found both HP and Daniel planting: "Wensday plesant HP planting tats I at home planted my Peas Adline hear the wether more favourable and warm things gro." HP finished sowing oats on May 5 and Daniel began shelling corn for planting. On May 8 Daniel put some of the shelled corn to use: "I planted my Corn in the garden this Morning." May 17 was another busy day: "Wensday plesant and warm I planted Cowcumbers and Mushmilions and Wattermilions and Bean in the garden HP planten Corn below the Orchard." HP finally finished planting corn the next day.42

Livestock required attention as well. Daniel recorded six lambs being born on April 18, but four died the next day. By April 21 they had nine lambs, and by the next day there were ten. On May 6 the sheep had to be tagged, and on May 22 they were washed. By May 29 the sheep were ready to lose their winter coats: "HP shearing sheepe this afternoon." The next day Daniel helped: "HP shearing sheepe for him self I helping." On June 6 HP performed the same work for S. B. Philbrick, on June 9 he worked for Augusta Norton, and on June 13 HP sheared for Hiram Covert. On April 21 a calf was born and on April 28 Daniel's mare bore a foal. On May 1 another calf was born: "the read Cow Calved last Night." Another calf was born On May 26. Daniel wrote of acquiring a pig on May 24: "I Bought a hog of H Miller for 9 Dollars." The next day he set about fattening it: "I got home my hog and put her in pen."43

June was a month for cultivating the crops planted in April and May, and for starting new ones. June 6 saw Daniel again working in his garden: "I work in the gardin Set out the Cabbage and wed the onions and hode the Millions." HP hoed his corn on June 12 and on June 19 hoed corn for S. B. Philbrick. That same day Daniel planted turnips. The corn hoeing continued into July. On July 14 HP began haying and continued at it for many weeks. Some days he would actually mow the hay, others he would haul the hay to be stored. When it rained on the cut hay, the hay needed

41. Kent Diary.
42. Kent Diary.
43. Kent Diary.


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to be turned to dry before it could be stored. HP was gone on August 4 and Daniel did the job himself: "HP gon to Hiram Phinney with Emily and Judah I went and turnd over the hay to Drye."44

In August other crops could begin to be harvested. August 5 was no good for haying, but HP began to reap the oats he had sown in the spring: "Sataday dowdy no hay wether HP Cuting Oats." On August 9 Daniel harvested onion seed from his garden: "I gethered my Onion seede I had one Bushel and half of onion." As haying tapered off, HP worked at his oats more and more often. Daniel found another crop to gather, as well: "August 16 Wensday plesant in the A M. and a heavy rain in the PM I went and salted the sheepe and picked 2 quarts of Blackber[riesj."45

In September other tasks arose. On September 5 Daniel and HP began taking crops to market: "we went to Clealand [Cleveland] I had 22 Bushels and 23 pounds of Corn I sold for 44 Cents a B." Daniel spent the next day purchasing sheep: "I went and got home my sheepe 11 in [all] I went the second time and got 10 in Nomber at one Dollar a head." Daniel then let HP rent the sheep for a year at one pound of wool a head, meaning that at shearing time for each sheep HP rented he had to pay Daniel one pound of wool out of the total amount of wool the sheep yielded. At the end of the month, HP had to thresh and clean the oats he had harvested in August. That task overlapped with the beginning of the corn harvest on September 25: "HP Cuting Corn for the first Day this seson."46

As September turned to October, and October to November, harvest season continued. Daniel wrote on October 11 "HP husking Corn at S Philbrick," and then echoed the entry a month later on November 1: "HP husking Corn down in [torn offi ." On October 20, HP was helping with the threshing at Thomas Philbrick's farm, alternating his own work with his neighors'. Daniel continued to harvest from his garden, and on October 7 wrote "I picked my seede Cowcumbers and getherd my Hops I getherd a Bushel of Butnuts and it made my Back lame." The 1848 agricultural season was coming to an end by the time Daniel wrote his November 6 entry: "Monday Clowdy and Cold and squaly spit snow."47

The surviving portion of Daniel Kent's 1848 diary is valuable not only for the record it contains of the Kent and Phiney families, but also for its record of the community in which they lived. By placing the diary in context, by identifying the protagonists and matching them to real people in public records, the diary's value is increased. The Kents and Phineys

44. Kent Diary.
45. Kent Diary.
46. Kent Diary.
47. Kent Diary.


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are found to be relatively typical of the families and households in midnineteenth-century Chester Township. Thus, their experiences can be taken as somewhat representative of others' experiences. The family relationships Daniel noted, the community interaction he observed, and the rhythm of the agricultural seasons that he so carefully charted are all significant contributions to the public record.

Sprinkled in among the reports of family activities, mixed in with comments on the weather, and interspersed with work schedules is the occasional entry that gives the reader a glimpse of Daniel the man: October 10 "tuesday plesant State Election to Day I went heard a grate Deal of talk with out Much sense so I went home." Daniel Kent's spirit lives on in his own words, which evoke the down-to-earth, full-ofcommon-sense sort of man he must have been. Therein lies the diary's truest value.48

48. Kent Diary.

 

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